British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Israel to halt the controversial plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, writing on Wednesday in a Hebrew op-ed published in an Israeli newspaper.
“I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead,” Johnson wrote in a rare appeal to Israelis, published on the front page of Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.
Johnson warned that annexation of parts of the West Bank, a territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and where the Palestinians wish to build their future state, will be “a violation of international law.”
He warned that if Israel will go through with the move, “Britain will not recognize changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between the two parties.”
Johnson said he was “fearful” that the annexation plan will fail to secure the borders of Israel and “will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.”
He urged Israelis to return to negotiation talks with the Palestinians, which reached an impasse in 2014.
“It will demand a compromise from both sides,” he said, adding that the only way Israel will achieve security is by reaching a peace deal that “will enable justice and security to both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Johnson’s remarks came on July 1, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set as the target date for the beginning of the annexation of the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank.
On Tuesday, after meeting U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz, Netanyahu said that his government is still “working” on the annexation plan, suggesting that it will be postponed.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Wednesday that Israel’s West Bank annexation plan is “unlikely” to begin on its July 1 set date.
“It seems unlikely to happen today,” Ashkenazi said in an interview to Army Radio.
Ashkenazi is a member of Blue and White, a centrist party and Netanyahu’s new partner in a power-sharing coalition government.
Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White, are at odds over the starting date of the annexation, with Netanyahu declaring July 1 as its start-date and Gantz wanting to postpone it until after the coronavirus crisis.
The annexation plan was received with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Israel on Monday to halt the “illegal” plan.